That’s more like it, Salut! Sunderland said mischievously: a Manchester United supporter in the Red Devils’ heartland of – you guessed – Denmark. But Helge Conradsen* is not just another far-away, never-been-to-Old-Trafford gloryseeker. He heads Denmark’s branch of the MUFC supporters’ club, has 47 years’ service as a United fan, owns a dog named after Cantona and is probably the best-known and most knowledgeable of all the club’s Danish fans. We love the way his brother “was once” a supporter of Sunderland (how can such an allegiance be fleeting?) …
Salut! Sunderland How does a Danish person end up supporting Manchester United fan? Why not Hull City or Derby County, for example, or your local club in Denmark?
I was 10 when I saw my first FA Cup Final on Danish TV. It was in 1963. Manchester United played Leicester City. I didn’t know anything about the teams but the team in the dark shirts (there was no colour TV then) played really well. A small striker caught my eyes. I found out that the name of the team was Manchester United and that the name of the player was Denis Law. Since then Manchester United have been my passion and Law my favourite player. I follow both English and Danish football but nothing can compare with Manchester United.
But 47 years is a long time. What have been the highs and lows?
It has been 47 wonderful years. The highs have been winning the Champions League twice especially in Barcelona against Bayern sitting behind the goal where Sheringham and Solskjaer scored in added time – but winning all the titles have been wonderful. The lows have been few but losing to Barcelona last season was very hard but they were the better team on the night.
How often have you been to Manchester, and in particular Old Trafford?
I have been to Manchester and Old Trafford 63 times since the first time in 1992.
Does it ever get boring supporting a team that expects to win everything?
It’s never boring to support a team that expects to win everything. I’m always looking forward to winning the next title.
Do you have any thoughts on Sunderland and on the players/staff – notably Roy Keane, Ricky Sbragia and Jonny Evans – who have been associated with both clubs?
My brother once was a supporter of Sunderland. I think I know a lot about the Black Cats. I have read a lot about them as I have read a lot about all other English clubs. I still remember the 1973 FA Cup Final when Jim Montgomery was fantastic in goal against Leeds. I remember Ian Porterfield scoring the only goal of the match. Bob Stokoe was manager then. Roy Keane is one of my favourite United-players. He was a fantastic player. I don’t know much about Sbragia. Jonny Evans is a wonderful player and will in the next years be first choice in central defence. Sunderland’s current manager Steve Bruce is also one of my absolute favourites.
Who will be this season’s Premier League top four, in order? If Man City are not in your list, why not?
I think the top four clubs will be: Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs and City.
And who will go down?
Portsmouth, Hull and Wolves.
Favourite – and least favourite – Man United players of all time?
All players who has worn the famous red shirt are my favourites. But the greatest three from my time are Denis Law, Eric Cantona and George Best. Sadly I didn’t see any of the pre Munich greats. I am not very excited about Paul Ince but that’s because of his comments about United after he left the club.
The Eduardo question: United need to win their last game for the title. Rooney makes a blatant dive for a last-second penalty and scores the winner. Do you take it gladly, do you take it guiltily or are you so ashamed that you almost wish you hadn’t won?
I don’t want to answer this question because I don’t know how I’ll react.
Will you be at old Trafford for our game. if not, how will you keep in touch with the game and what will be the score?
I won’t be at Old Trafford on Saturday. The match is live on Danish TV Channel 5. I’ll follow it at home. I have seen a couple of games with Sunderland this season and the team is far better than last season. I think United will win 2-0.
* Helge Conradsen (pictured with part of his football library and the first shirt Peter Schmeichel wore at Old Trafford on Aug 6 1991, against the Republic of Ireland in Sir Matt Busby’s testimonial) on Helge Conradsen:
I’m 56 and married to Vibeke. We have no children but a small dog which is called Sir Eric Cantona. I have worked 20 years as a teacher. From 1995 to 2003 I worked part-time then full-time and again part-time as leader of the Manchester United Supporters’ Club in Denmark. The Danish Branch is a part of the Scandinavian Branch which is the largest United-supporters’ club in the world with over 40,000 members. We are 4,000 members in Denmark. I’m the branch secretary of the supporters’ club in Denmark. I have for over 35 years collected Manchester United programmes and books. It’s said to be the largest United collection outside the UK. I have around 4.000 programmes dating back to 1930. I also have about 650 books about United. In 1991 I won £6.000 on Danish TV in a quiz about Manchester United. I also buy a lot of books about other clubs and about players from other clubs.